tie down straps for kayaks [Answered]


Kayaking is a fun and exhilarating outdoor activity that is enjoyed by many. Whether you are a seasoned paddler or a beginner, it is important to ensure that your kayak is properly secured during transportation. This is where tie down straps come in handy. They are essential safety equipment that will not only protect your kayak, but also other road users. In this article, we will discuss the different types of tie down straps, how to choose the right one for your kayak, and tips for proper installation. We will also mention some alternatives to tie down straps if they are not suitable for your situation.

Types of Tie Down Straps

There are three main types of tie down straps that are commonly used to secure kayaks during transportation. These are cam straps, ratchet straps, and rope tie downs. Each has its own working mechanism, advantages, and disadvantages.

  1. Cam Straps:
    • Working mechanism: Cam straps use a buckle mechanism to tighten the strap around the kayak. They are easy to use and adjust, and they are less likely to damage the kayak because they distribute the tension evenly.
    • Pros and cons: They are lightweight, affordable, and durable. However, they may not be suitable for heavy loads and they may loosen over time.
  2. Ratchet Straps:
    • Working mechanism: Ratchet straps use a ratcheting mechanism to tighten the strap around the kayak. They provide a secure grip and are ideal for heavy loads.
    • Pros and cons: They are strong, reliable, and easy to use. However, they can be quite expensive and may damage the kayak if over-tightened.
  3. Rope Tie Downs:
    • Working mechanism: Rope tie downs use a knotting mechanism to secure the kayak. They require more skill and expertise to use than the other types of straps.
    • Pros and cons: They are versatile, affordable, and can be adjusted easily. However, they may not be suitable for inexperienced users and may cause damage to the kayak if not used correctly.

Choosing the Right Tie Down Straps

Choosing the right tie down straps is important to ensure the safety of your kayak during transportation. There are several factors to consider when choosing the right type of strap for your kayak.

  1. Length:
    • The length of the strap should be long enough to go around the kayak and tie it down to the roof rack of your vehicle. The length of the strap will depend on the size of your kayak and the type of roof rack you have.
  2. Load Capacity:
    • The load capacity of the strap should be equal to or greater than the weight of your kayak. Check the weight limit of the strap before purchasing to ensure it is suitable for your kayak.
  3. Hook Types:
    • The hook type should be suitable for the roof rack of your vehicle. Some straps have S-hook, J-hook, or D-ring hooks. Choose the hook type that will fit securely onto your roof rack to avoid slippage and damage to your kayak.

Tips for Properly Securing Your Kayak

Properly securing your kayak is crucial to avoid damage to your kayak, your vehicle, and other road users. Below are some tips on how to properly secure your kayak using tie down straps.

  1. Center Your Kayak on the Roof:
    • Position your kayak in the center of the roof rack to distribute the weight evenly.
  2. Position the Bow and Stern in Place:
    • Align the bow and stern of the kayak to the front and back of the roof rack respectively. This will ensure that your kayak stays in place during transportation.
  3. Position Tie Down Straps:
    • Place the tie down straps across the kayak in an X-shape, with one strap at the bow and the other at the stern. This will provide a secure grip and prevent the kayak from sliding around.
  4. Tightening the Straps:
    • Tighten the straps evenly on both sides of the kayak until it is securely fastened to the roof rack. Do not over-tighten to avoid damaging your kayak.
  5. Double Checking the Security:
    • After tightening the straps, double-check the security of the kayak by giving it a gentle shake or tug. If it moves or slides, then the straps need to be tightened further. Once the kayak is secure, cover it with a protective cover to prevent damage from road debris.

Alternatives to Tie Down Straps

While tie down straps are the most common method of securing kayaks during transportation, some alternatives may be more suitable in certain situations. Below are some alternatives to tie down straps that you may want to consider.

  1. Roof Racks:
    • Roof racks provide a secure base for your kayak and eliminate the need for tie down straps. They come in different sizes and shapes to fit different vehicles and kayaks.
  2. J-cradles or Kayak Saddles:
    • J-cradles or kayak saddles are designed to cradle the kayak and hold it securely in place. They are easy to install and provide a strong grip on your kayak.
  3. Pool Noodles:
    • Pool noodles can be used as an inexpensive and temporary solution for securing your kayak during transportation. Cut the pool noodles in half lengthwise and place them on the roof rack to create a cushion for your kayak.

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What type of tie down straps are best for kayaks?

Cam straps and ratchet straps are both suitable for securing kayaks, but cam straps are generally the best choice due to their ease of use and adjustable tension.

How many tie down straps do I need for my kayak?

At minimum, you should have two tie down straps for your kayak: one for the bow and one for the stern. However, you may want additional straps in the middle of the kayak for added security.

Can I use bungee cords to secure my kayak?

It is not recommended to use bungee cords to secure a kayak on a roof rack as they do not provide enough tension and can stretch over time.

How long should my tie down straps be?

The length of your tie down straps will depend on the width of your kayak and the length of your roof rack bars. Typically, straps between 12-15 feet in length are suitable for most kayaks.

Should I tie my kayak to the front or back of my car?

It is recommended to tie down both the front and back of your kayak to prevent it from shifting during transport.

Can I reuse tie down straps?

Yes, tie down straps can be reused as long as they are in good condition and not frayed or damaged.

How tight should I make my tie down straps?

Tighten the straps snugly but not too tight, as over-tightening can damage the kayak and the roof rack.

Are tie down straps weather-resistant?

Many tie down straps are made from weather-resistant materials such as nylon, but it is still recommended to store them in a dry place when not in use.

Can I transport multiple kayaks on one roof rack?

Yes, you can transport multiple kayaks on one roof rack, but be sure to use additional tie down straps and make sure that the weight is evenly distributed.

Do I need to use tie down straps if I have a kayak carrier or J-cradles?

Even with a kayak carrier or J-cradles, it is still recommended to use tie down straps for added security during transport.

Real experience

Jenna was an adventurous girl who loved to kayak in her free time. She had been planning a kayaking trip with her friends for several weeks, and the day had finally arrived. Excitement was in the air as they loaded their kayaks onto the roof of their car. Jenna’s friend Mark had forgotten to bring his tie down straps, but he reassured them that they wouldn’t be necessary as he had transported his kayak without them before.

As they drove down the highway, the wind picked up and Jenna’s kayak started to wobble. She glanced over at Mark’s kayak and noticed it was wobbling too. They quickly realized that the kayaks were not secured properly and they had left their tie down straps behind. The group was forced to turn back, their kayaking trip ruined.

After that experience, Jenna always made sure to keep her tie down straps in the car and to double check that her kayak was securely fastened before hitting the road. She even convinced Mark to invest in a set of tie down straps for his own safety and the safety of others on the road.

From then on, Jenna’s kayaking trips were not only exhilarating but also safely executed. Jenna’s friends dubbed her the “tie down strap queen” and she happily accepted the title knowing that it meant she was making a difference in keeping the roads safe for everyone.

Based on: https://und.edu/student-life/wellness-center/_files/docs/outpost/canoe2.pdf


Securing your kayak during transportation is important to ensure your safety and that of others on the road. Tie down straps are the most common method of securing kayaks, and there are different types to choose from depending on your needs. When selecting the appropriate straps for your kayak, consider the length, load capacity, and hook types. Follow the tips we have provided to properly secure your kayak during transportation. In situations where tie down straps are not suitable, alternatives such as roof racks, J-cradles or kayak saddles, and pool noodles can be considered. Remember, properly securing your kayak is critical to prevent damage or accidents.

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